Brad Feld

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Can Anyone Be A Major League Pitcher?

Feb 25, 2008

Alan Shimel has a fantastic post up titled Do they have to grow up?  As I read it, I thought of some of the great lessons my dad taught me when I was a little kid and how hard they must have been for him to carry out.

Amy and I have a regular discussion about whether or not it is helpful to tell a child "you can do or be anything you want."  Amy’s reply is that she could never be an NBA center and neither could I.  While the metaphor is a good one (e.g. "don’t let anyone limit your aspirations or dreams"), accomplishing things – especially amazing ones – requires a huge amount of hard work, perseverance, drive, skill, genetics, timing, and luck.  Alan nails it:

"At some level I guess it is part of growing up and realizing that you are not the next Nolan Ryan or Josh Beckett.  It is similar to a truth I come to grips with every day.  That is as I get older with each day, there are going to be some dreams and hopes that are going to go unfulfilled in my own life.  There are going to be mountains I am not going to climb. As I have gotten older I have come to grips with this reality and even accepted it. "

I must be brutal to be a father and have to teach this lesson to your child.  My first reaction to Alan’s approach was probably similar to some of the parents in attendance – namely – "make the madness stop."  But there’s a big part of it that is brilliant.  It’s one thing to be told something, it’s an entirely different thing to experience it.

I’ve just read Alan’s post for the third time and it gets better with each read.

"But I felt I had to do this. I think they had to learn this lesson, I just wish it were not the hard way.  After the game I gathered the team and told them baseball is a team sport.  Each member of the team contributes in their own special way.  They each possess a unique set of talents and skills that allows them to help the team, but not everyone is cut out to be a pitcher or a catcher. I think they all realize it now. Some of the kids accepted this and told me they did not want to pitch anymore.  Other kids said they would practice and try to get better. "

I’ve had my share of lessons I’ve learned the hard way – say Interliant, my biggest failure and the source of some of my greatest lessons, or my first 8.01 (MIT freshman physics) test which I got 20 (out of 100) on.  Failure is when you really learn things.  I just keep practicing and trying to get better.